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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Policy...Smolicy...Plus a 4:30 p.m. update!

Concerned Citizens obtained a copy of the Town of New Hartford Procurement Policy; we have already posted it in one of our earlier posts.

Shortly after we reported on the "emergency" vehicle purchases, we thought maybe we should re-read that policy, checking it a little more closely this time. Perhaps the Town of New Hartford Procurement Policy is unlike any other town...perhaps there is fine print at the end that says "We can do it anyway we want, and you can't stop us!"

At any rate, according to the Purchase Policies and Procedural Manual, Town of New Hartford that was last updated January 1, 2006...(hey, isn't that when Supervisor Reed came into power?)...we found "Emergency Purchases":
"A permanent file for each emergency will be maintained of all memos, correspondence, police reports (if required), resolutions and vouchers in the Accounting Department."
So on January 21, 2008, we FOILed the permanent file for each of the "emergencies". We also FOILed information as to the whereabouts of each of the two vehicles that the town board declared needing an "emergency" replacement. In our FOIL request, we also reminded the town clerk that we first requested information on the whereabouts of the van on October 30, 2007, but to date no response from that FOIL has been forthcoming.

Last Friday, February 15, 2008, we got a response back from the town clerk:
The Highway Superintendent and Bookkeeper said there are no records; except Resolution #168 that I gave to the Bookkeeper after it was adopted in 2006.

The Police Chief's response will be forthcoming in a couple days.
For the sake of clarity, Resolution 168 was passed June 7, 2006:
WHEREAS, during the first week of June 2006, it had been determined by Mechanics in the Highway Department that the 1997 Ford Econoline Van [VIN 1FTEE1425VHB74499] with 140,000 miles, used by the Buildings and Grounds Department, the Traffic and Safety Department, the Sewer Department and the Highway Department, would require a minimum of Fifteen Hundred Dollars ($1500) plus labor to repair the engine; and

WHEREAS, this is the only vehicle of this type for use with the Highway Department, and due to the repair costs and mileage, it had been determined that the 1997 Ford Van should not be repaired and that an emergency replacement was justified;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Town Board of the Town of New Hartford does hereby recognize and declare the aforementioned circumstances as an emergency situation and does further authorize and direct the payment of Twelve Thousand Nine Hundred Eighty-two Dollars and Twenty-four Cents ($12,982.24), Purchase Order No. 76794, to Steet-Ponte Ford for the required replacement vehicle, a 2006 Ford E150, CarGoVan, VIN 1FTRE14W16VA40974.

The Resolution was declared unanimously carried and duly ADOPTED.
By declaring the replacement of vehicles an emergency, the town board circumvents the bidding process; not against the law, unless of course, there really wasn't an emergency. By the way, anyone have a problem with the fact that both of these vehicles were declared "emergency purchases" and were obtained from Steet-Ponte Ford without a bid?

The fact that the town clerk now says there is absolutely no paperwork kept in a file as required by the town's own Procurement Policy is astounding! So we guess we are to believe that no one knows where the van is...we have asked twice now. Just for good measure, we sent an email to the Town Clerk today to make sure that our request for the whereabouts of the town van wasn't "overlooked". We certainly wouldn't want to read more into her email than was intended. We will report back if we receive any information to the contrary.

And how about the Chief's 1999 Ford Crown Victoria...over a month to get a response to our FOIL for the whereabouts of that vehicle? We are still waiting...

By the way according to the Procurement Manual, all documentation is supposed to be kept in the Accounting Department so if bookkeeper says she doesn't have anything, what are the chances the Police Department that discards routine documents will have anything on file for the 1999 Crown Victoria previously the Chief's car? And why would it be in the Police files when it is supposed to be in the Accounting Department files?

Another page from the Procurement Manual is regarding Fixed Assets and Inventory. It says:
A physical inventory will be done on or before June 30th of every other fiscal year. ..

A fixed asset perpetual ledger will be maintained in the Accounting Department...As purchase orders are processed, any item charge to a .02 account (equipment) is entered into a fixed asset ledger, maintained by the Accounting Department. Any additions or deletions are also noted...
You can read the rest of the policy on Fixed Assets here.

So then, if records were kept according to policy, how difficult would it be to give us the FOILed information?

Ah, but then, isn't this part of the problem with the annual audit? Recording of Fixed Assets...we will be reporting on this some more. Concerned Citizens thinks you should know how much the town has paid for an audit where the auditors state "we did not audit the information and express no opinion on it".

UPDATE: As we stated, we emailed the town clerk for clarification. Part of the response:
The Highway Superintendent said there is no surrender receipt as the plates were transferred to the 2006 replacement van and that the Town no longer has the 1997 Econoline van.

After searching the 2006 and 2007 Town Board minutes, I found no declaration of surplus vehicle for the 1997 van and have no record of how it was disposed.
That's interesting, they have no record of how the van was disposed, no record of what was wrong with it, no memo from the Highway Department to the Town Board...nothing... What else did the town own and now there is no record of disposing of it? Wonder if someone's name would come up if we run the VIN# 1FTEE1425VHB74499?

And you know what else is funny? According to the equipment list we received in March 2007 (see the date at the top of the pdf document), the same van with the same VIN number is noted as "Plates being turned in to DMV and in the process of being removed from town insurance". Now, Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland says that the plates were actually transferred to the new vehicle in June of 2006 and never turned in. Notice something else? The VIN numbers from the town board minutes don't quite match the equipment list...that's another quinky dink we have found when comparing records on some vehicles in the Highway Dept. Something smells pretty fishy to us.

Concerned Citizens is wondering...just how many vehicles have to be missing from the Highway Department before someone steps in and puts an end to it?

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